I remember my frustration with this student. He was always absent. His work was not turned in. He was disengaged.

He was also bright and brimming with potential. I would work with him at lunch. I would prod him to get his work in, come to class, be the student he could be.

Finally, we learned the truth of this young man’s home life. He missed so much school because he was afraid to leave his mom unprotected with her boyfriend. That’s when it really sank in.

Related content: How our school is fighting back against trauma

This student wasn’t lazy; he was taking on responsibilities not meant for an 8th grader to carry. This student wasn’t disengaged with my class; he was overly engaged in the act of survival.

Research proves this is true for many students enrolled in public schools across America. The brain cannot focus on learning when it is alert for danger.

About the Author:

Heather Dean and Amber Wagnon forged a friendship during the hot, muggy summers in Lubbock, Texas as they pursued their doctorate degrees. They have had the great pleasure of collaborating on multiple projects together, the most recent being the publication of their book Hear My Voice: Tales of Trauma and Equity from Today’s Youth. Please follow us on Twitter at @iteachdean and @ProfWagnon.